(Plain Press, June 2016) In the City of Cleveland, where many residents are often left out of cultural activities because of the price of admission, Station Hope provides a free event with high quality art, dance, poetry, theater and music for all to enjoy. People from throughout Cleveland ventured to Church Avenue in Ohio City on April 30th, for the 2016 celebration of Station Hope. The event, presented by Cleveland Public Theatre, former Ward 3 Councilman Joe Cimperman, and the City of Cleveland was billed as a “block party with a purpose; an arts event for the people; and a celebration of hope.” The event made possible through a wide variety of local and national funders, was that, and more.
In its third year, Station Hope takes place at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 2600 Church Avenue. The church is an authenticated site of the Underground Railroad that helped move escaped slaves move from slavery in the southern states to freedom in Canada. Cleveland, just a short distance from Canada on the shores of Lake Erie, was called Station Hope.
The Station Hope celebration not only offers quality entertainment in a variety of poetry, dance, music, and theater performances, but also uses both community members and professional artists as performers. Many of the performances also sought to address some pertinent civil rights and social issues.
Station Hope offered five different staging areas each with continuously changing performances.
Performances in one of the venues, the Sanctuary of St. John’s Episcopal Church, offer an example of the inclusiveness and variety of the performers.
Two performances featured actors from Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) estates. In one performance youths who are residents of Authority’s Woodhill Homes and members of Cleveland Public Theatre’s Brick City Theatre put on a production titled, “Walk the Path” where, according to the program, they “declared their human right to live fearlessly; to be heard and respected by their community; and to walk with empowerment the path to their future.”
In another performance, youths and adult residents of Lakeview estates, who are members of Cleveland Public Theatre’s Brick City Theatre, presented a production titled, “Looking Back to Face Forward” where they examined “how our memories and life experiences shape who we are and who we can become.” The actors portrayed people who are often misunderstood yet have their own plans, hopes and dreams.
The performances by community actors were mixed with those of professionals. Including the dance performance written, directed and designed by Terance Greene titled “Angels: A love that forgives” that offers an interpretation of an important turning point in the struggle for Civil Rights in the United States. In the performance four dancers first depict the horror of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 where four young girls were killed. In a second scene the dancers return as angels.
In another performance called, “Highway to Canaan”, members of the Opera by the Lake act and sing in a condensed version of the opera which tells the story of an 1851 escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
Those in attendance were also treated to an Inlet Dance Theatre production of Doppelganger (2001) by dancers Joshua Brown and Kevin Parker. The two dancers mirrored the movements of one another with a magnificent display of athleticism.